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Object Details
Medium: Oil on canvas 
Dimensions: 56.2 x 76.8 cm (22 1/8 x 30 1/4 in. ) 
Geog. Data:  
Period: 19th century 
Culture American 
Rail Shooting on the Delaware
Artist: Thomas Eakins, American, 1844?1916
Bequest of Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903
Eakins' portraits of sportsmen eloquently express his era's belief in the interrelatedness of physical and mental discipline. During the 1870s he did a series of rail hunting pictures that detail various moments of the sport in the marshy, low-lying land along the Delaware River, south of Philadelphia. The quarry, the clapper rail, a bird no larger than a small chicken, was best hunted at high tide, when the flooded marsh offered fewer hiding places and a flat-bottomed skiff could be poled over and among the reeds. With reduced reed cover, the bird is more easily detected and frightened into a slow flight. From his elevated position on the deck, Dave Wright, who propels and steers the boat, has spotted an ascending bird which probably only he can see. Wright calls his warning to the hunter, Will Schuster, then uses the long pole to steady the boat. As in many of his sporting scenes, Eakins was fascinated with the tension and precision that marked the efforts of the best sportsmen.  
This object is on view at the gallery.
Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 156, 159, fig. 153.
Michael Conforti et al., The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings, exh. cat. (Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2006), 316, 325, no. 107, fig. 275.
Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 6, 324–25, 329, no. 208, ill.
Arne Neset, Arcadian Waters and Wanton Seas: The Iconology of Waterscapes in Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Culture, 36 (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), 147, no. 7.4.
Ilene Susan Fort, Manly Pursuits: Writings on the Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2011), 45, ill.
Jean-Philippe Huys, Dominique Marechal, and Jeffery Howe, Gustave Courbet et la Belgique : reŽalisme de l'art vivant a` l'art libre, exh. cat. (Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2013), 140, fig. 86.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.